Dragon Throne
The Dragon Throne is the English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 term used to identify the throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

 of the Emperor of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

. As the dragon was the emblem of imperial power, the throne of the Emperor was known as the Dragon Throne. The term can refer to very specific seating, as in the special seating in various structures in the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

 of Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 or in the palaces of the Old Summer Palace
Old Summer Palace
The Old Summer Palace, known in China as Yuan Ming Yuan , and originally called the Imperial Gardens, was a complex of palaces and gardens in Beijing...

. In an abstract sense, the "Dragon Throne" also refers rhetorically to the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and to the monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 itself. The Daoguang Emperor
Daoguang Emperor
The Daoguang Emperor was the eighth emperor of the Manchurian Qing dynasty and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1820 to 1850.-Early years:...

 is said to have referred to his throne as "the divine utensil."
"My sacred and indulgent father had, in the year that he began to rule alone, silently settled that the divine utensil (the throne) should devolve on my contemptible person. I, knowing the feebleness of my virtue, at first felt much afraid I should not be competent to the office; but on reflecting that the sages, my ancestors, have left to posterity their plans; that his late majesty has laid the duty on me -— and heaven's throne should not be long vacant -— I have done violence to my feelings, and forced myself to intermit awhile my heartfelt grief, that I may with reverence obey the unalterable decree and on the 27th of the 8th moon (October 3rd), I purpose devoutly to announce the event to heaven, to earth, to my ancestors, and to the gods of the land and of the grain, and shall then sit down on the imperial throne."

Seat of State

The dragon was the symbol on the Imperial flag and other Imperial objects, including the throne or Imperial utensil. The dragon was said to have the power to become visible or invisible -- in short, the dragon was a factotum in the "divinity business" of the Emperors of China. The dragon was the crest on royal monuments. The dragon was displayed on the Emperor's robes. The Grand Chair of State was called the "Dragon Throne."

The term can be used to refer to a very specific Seat of State in the "Hall of Supreme Harmony
Hall of Supreme Harmony
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest hall within the Forbidden City. It is located at its central axis, behind the Gate of Supreme Harmony. Built above three levels of marble stone base, and surrounded by bronze incense burners, the Hall of Supreme Harmony is one of the largest wooden...

" (also known as the "Hall of Highest Peace"). This is a uniquely crafted object which was used only by the Emperor.

When European and American military forces pushed their way into the Pekin
-United States:*Pekin, Illinois*Pekin, Indiana*Pekin, Iowa*Pekin, Kentucky, now Paducah, Kentucky*Pekin, Maryland*Pekin Township, Michigan*Pekin, New York, hamlet in town of Cambria, New York*Pekin, North Dakota-Animals:*Red-billed Leiothrix, or Pekin Robin...

 after the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in 1900, they were the first men from the West to appear in the presence of the Dragon Throne since Isaac Titsingh
Isaac Titsingh
Isaac Titsingh FRS was a Dutch surgeon, scholar, merchant-trader and ambassador.During a long career in East Asia, Titsingh was a senior official of the Dutch East India Company . He represented the European trading company in exclusive official contact with Tokugawa Japan...

 and Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest
Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest
Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest Dutch-American merchant who is mostly known for his participation in the last Dutch embassy to China under the tributary system.- Early career :...

 were received with grace and ceremony by Emperor Qianlong in 1795. William Elliot Griffis
William Elliot Griffis
William Elliot Griffis was an American orientalist, Congregational minister, lecturer, and prolific author....

 was among those who did actually stand with cameras and notebooks before the Dragon Throne on a sunny September day in 1900; and he described what he saw:
There was the throne itself, a great three-leaved affair. Over the ample seat in the centre, with a high reredos, two great wings spread off from the central division. All was white marble and jade, liberally sculptured according to the canons of Chinese art. Along the top lay and leered dragons, each one " swinging the scaly horror of his folded tail" toward the central seat, his head projecting outward in the air. Below the throne were the three steps, on the broad second one of which the suppliant performed the nine prostrations or knocks of the head.


In Imperial China, the seat of power was called the Dragon's Seat or the Dragon Throne. The process of accession, the ceremonies of enthronement and the act being seated on the Dragon's Throne were roughly interchangeable.

The Dragon Throne was an hereditary monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 in China before 1912. In much the same sense as the British Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

, the Dragon Throne became an abstract metonymic concept which represented the monarch and the legal authority for the existence of the government. Unlike its British counterpart, the concepts of Chinese monarchy evolved differently before 1912 when there was, for example, little perceived separation of the property of the nation-state from the person and personal holdings of the emperor.

According to tradition, the Chinese Empire began with the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 in 221 BC; and the chronology of the emperors continued in unbroken succession until the fall of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 in 1912.

For a short time in 1917, to whatever extent the Chinese emperor was held to be as symbol of the state and its people, the Dragon Throne would have been construed as a symbol of a constitutional monarch
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...


Rhetorical usage

This flexible English term is also a rhetorical trope
Trope (literature)
A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

. Depending on context, the Dragon Throne can be construed as a metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

, which is a rhetorical device for an allusion relying on proximity or correspondence, as for example referring to actions of the Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 or as "actions of the Dragon Throne."

The Dragon Throne is also understood as a synecdoche
Synecdoche , meaning "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term is used in one of the following ways:* Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing , or...

, which is related to metonymy and metaphor in suggesting a play on words by identifying a closely related conceptualization, e.g.,
  • referring to a part with the name of the whole, such as "Dragon Throne" for the mystic process of transferring Imperial authority, e.g.,
In 1368, "[o]ne of the Hongwu Emperor
Hongwu Emperor
The Hongwu Emperor , known variably by his given name Zhu Yuanzhang and by his temple name Taizu of Ming , was the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China...

's first acts upon ascending the Dragon Throne was to set up a network to spy on his subordinates and to register the entire population of China for the first time."

  • referring to the general with the specific, such as "Dragon Throne" for emperorship (or the supreme autocrat of China) or Imperial China itself, e.g.,
In 1418, "[t]he fleet moored just outside Malindi
Malindi is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It is 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa. The population of Malindi is 117,735 . It is the capital of the Malindi District.Tourism is the major industry in Malindi. The city is...

's coral reefs (off the east coast of what is today known as Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

). From the belly of the big ships came small rowboats and men in lavish silk robes. And among the faces were some the king recognized. These men he knew. They were his own ambassadors whom he had dispatched months ago on a tribute-bearing mission. Now emissaries of the Dragon Throne were returning them home, and they brought wondrous things to trade. But had so many men and so many ships come in peace or had they come to make the citizens of Malindi subjects of the Son of Heaven
Son of Heaven
Son of Heaven may refer to:* Emperor of China* Emperor of Japan* Emperors of Vietnam* Son of God* Son of Heaven , book on Guangxu Emperor by Princess Der Ling...


  • referring to the specific with the general, such as "Dragon Throne" for the long reign of Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-1795) or equally as well for the ambit of the Imperial system, e.g.,
In 1921, "... the movement for the restoration of the Throne will eventually have the hearty approval of the vast majority of the people. They will welcome it, not only because the Dragon Throne has been for ages an essential part of the Confucian system, inseparable from the ideas of an agricultural race born and bred on patriarchal Theism, but also because of the callous corruption and disorder with which the present administration has been identified all over the country.

See also

  • Table of Chinese monarchs
    Table of Chinese monarchs
    The following list of Chinese monarchs is in no way comprehensive. From the Shang Dynasty to the Qin Dynasty, rulers usually held the title "King"...

  • Chinese sovereign
    Chinese sovereign
    Chinese sovereign is the ruler of a particular period in ancient China. Several titles and naming schemes have been used throughout history.-Emperor Title:...

  • Mandate of Heaven
    Mandate of Heaven
    The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

  • List of longest reigning emperors in China

  • National emblem
    National emblem
    A national emblem symbolically represents a nation. Most national emblems originate in the natural world, such as animals or birds, but another object may serve. National emblems may appear on many things such as the national flag, coat of arms, or other patriotic materials...

    • Throne of England
      Throne of England
      The Throne of England is the English term used to identify the throne of the King of England. The term can refer to very specific seating, as in King Edward's Chair, which has been used in the coronations of British kings for eight centuries...

       and the Kings of England
      United Kingdom
      The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

    • Chrysanthemum Throne
      Chrysanthemum Throne
      The is the English term used to identify the throne of the Emperor of Japan. The term can refer to very specific seating, such as the takamikura throne in the Shishin-den at Kyoto Imperial Palace....

       of the Emperors
      Emperor of Japan
      The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

       of Japan
      Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

    • Phoenix Throne
      Phoenix Throne
      The Phoenix Throne is the English term used to identify the throne of the hereditary monarchs of Korea. In an abstract sense, the Phoenix Throne also refers rhetorically to the head of state of the Joseon dynasty and the Empire of Korea .The Phoenix motif symbolizs the king's supreme authority...

       of the Kings of Korea
      Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

    • Lion Throne
      Lion Throne
      The Lion Throne is the English term used to identify the throne of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. It specifically refers to the throne historically used by Dalai Lamas at Potala Palace in Lhasa.- See also :* List of Dalai Lamas* Tibetan independence movement...

       of the Dalai Lama
      Dalai Lama
      The Dalai Lama is a high lama in the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name is a combination of the Mongolian word далай meaning "Ocean" and the Tibetan word bla-ma meaning "teacher"...

       of Tibet
      Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

    • Peacock Throne
      Peacock Throne
      The Peacock Throne, called Takht-e Tâvus in Persian, is the name originally given to a Mughal throne of India, which was later adopted and used to describe the thrones of the Persian emperors from Nader Shah Afshari and erroneously to Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi whose throne was a reconstruction of...

       of the Mughal Empire
      Mughal Empire
      The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

    • Peacock Throne
      Peacock Throne
      The Peacock Throne, called Takht-e Tâvus in Persian, is the name originally given to a Mughal throne of India, which was later adopted and used to describe the thrones of the Persian emperors from Nader Shah Afshari and erroneously to Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi whose throne was a reconstruction of...

       of the Persian Empire
    • Naderi Throne
      Naderi throne
      The Naderi Throne of Iran is a gemmed and enameled throne made during Qajar era, now kept in the national treasure of the Central Bank of Iran. The throne has no relation to Nader Shah but the Persian word 'nader' that means "rare" or "unique" in the Persian language...

       in Iran

  • The Last Emperor
    The Last Emperor
    The Last Emperor is a 1987 biopic about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for the screenplay written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci. Independently produced by Jeremy Thomas, it was directed by Bertolucci and released in 1987 by Columbia Pictures...

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